Definition of labyrinth in US English:



  • 1A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze.

    ‘a labyrinth of passages and secret chambers’
    • ‘Theseus killing the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Crete, and labyrinths in general, were favorite subjects for church pavements, especially among the Gauls.’
    • ‘The lanes and alleys of the Marrakech medina twist and turn through a labyrinth where excitement and mystery await you around every corner.’
    • ‘But they say that the inhabitants on Prangli do not know of any labyrinths on their island.’
    • ‘The labyrinth has since ancient times been associated with the legend of the Minotaur, the monster half-man half-bull which dwelt in the heart of a labyrinth on the island of Crete.’
    • ‘Artress led the effort to reintroduce the labyrinth into the world as a spiritual tool.’
    • ‘Within lies a modern labyrinth arranged around the physical remains of ancient Roman town houses, together with more conventional exhibition spaces.’
    • ‘The original center piece has been removed and other areas of the labyrinth have been restored.’
    • ‘Macerata was built on a hill with fortress-like walls and internal streets as confusing as a labyrinth, and today it still has many of those outer walls intact.’
    • ‘There is only one way to get in and one way to get out, which are directly opposite of each other if you were to remove the tall walls of stone creating the confusing labyrinth.’
    • ‘Ariadne is this character in Greek myth who accompanies Theseus on his dangerous expedition to the heart of the labyrinth to kill the dreaded Minotaur.’
    • ‘He seemed to know the labyrinth by instinct, only bothering with a lamp when the others began to stumble in the dusk.’
    • ‘It is situated in the intricate labyrinth of the Niah Caves.’
    • ‘And of course, there is considerably more concerning the labyrinths of the Cathedrals of Northern France.’
    maze, warren, network, complex, web, coil, entanglement
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    1. 1.1 An intricate and confusing arrangement.
      ‘a labyrinth of conflicting laws and regulations’
      • ‘His investigation reveals a twisted labyrinth of deception and betrayal, with remorseless vixen Kitty Collins at the center.’
      • ‘The likely result of this is a labyrinth of intricate employment and childcare arrangements that families may find harder to juggle, not easier.’
      • ‘The few seemingly simple slips of paper turn out to be a confusing labyrinth of coupons, even if colour coordinated.’
      • ‘This is a place of high anxiety, a labyrinth where the protagonists become so confused by being mistaken for someone else that insanity threatens.’
      • ‘Conditions are mild and predictable for novice divers, and spectacular fun for certified cave divers, who can twist through extensive labyrinths of limestone tunnels and chambers.’
      • ‘Khadra's Algiers is a labyrinth of political intrigue and corporate crime - or, more precisely, corporate crime disguised as political intrigue.’
      • ‘However, after centuries of building, law's design is difficult to discern; its attempt to impose order on chaos has become its own labyrinth, confusing as much as enlightening those who try to enter.’
      • ‘I had just completed the process of studying business administration and journeyed into the labyrinth of corporate power.’
      tangle, web, morass, jungle, snarl, twist, turn, complexity, confusion, complication, entanglement, convolution, intricacy
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  • 2Anatomy
    A complex structure in the inner ear which contains the organs of hearing and balance. It consists of bony cavities (the bony labyrinth) filled with fluid and lined with sensitive membranes (the membranous labyrinth).

    • ‘The molecular mechanisms coordinating the development of the membranous and bony labyrinths are largely unknown.’
    • ‘Within each semicircular canal of the bony labyrinth is a semicircular canal of the membranous labyrinth.’
    • ‘The last part contains the portion of the membranous labyrinth that is involved in hearing perception.’
    • ‘These fusions divide the bony labyrinth into two chambers called scala vestibuli and scala tympani.’
    • ‘If the membranous labyrinth ruptures, the endolymph mixes with another inner ear fluid called perilymph.’
    1. 2.1Zoology An organ of intricate structure, in particular the accessory respiratory organs of certain fishes.


Late Middle English (referring to the maze constructed by Daedalus to house the Minotaur): from French labyrinthe or Latin labyrinthus, from Greek laburinthos.